February 23, 2018

Asghar Valika regrets loss of form of top cueists


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chairman of the Pakistan Billiard & Snooker Association (PBSA), Ali Asghar Valika, the father figure of snooker in the country, has regretted the loss of form of some of the top cueists of the country and hoped that efforts will be made to keep them motivated and inspired.

In the next Board meeting he plans to propose to the PBSA Executive to take measures to ensure that the once leading cueists of the country continue performing more consistently. 

He was concerned with the loss of form the cueists Muhammad Sajjad and Shahid Aftab, both former champions, who performed much below par in the Jubilee Insurance 43rd National Snooker Championship 2018 held at the Karachi Gymkhana a few days ago. 

Asghar Valika, who revived the Pakistan snooker while leading the PBSA from 1988 to 2008, didn’t mince words in stating that he was not impressed with the performance of the eventual champion (Muhammad Asif) either. 

“I have a feeling that Asif couldn’t reproduce the form which had made him the world champion in 2012 and the national champion earlier the same year,” he observed.

“The youngsters like Asif, Sajjad, Shahid and a few others had first come into prominence when I was heading the Association. They had shown flashes of brilliance in early career and we took care of them to boost their confidence and skills. They have repaid by having performed well internationally over the years but now some chinks in their armoury are becoming visible,” the PBSA Chairman added. 

“Now the time has come for the management to talk to them and take care of their needs. Personally I feel that they would become much more productive if mentored by prolific coaches. They are blessed with talent and experience but they do need guidance and direction,” he explained.

“While it’s very heartening that the youngsters are emerging from every nook and corner of the country to challenge the top cueists of the country but we must not lose sight of the fact that the current lot of experienced cueists have brought us laurels in the recent past. They deserve to be looked after properly,” Asghar Valika felt. 

He was optimistic that the present leadership of the PBSA, which was eager to further promote cue sports in the country, will take remedial measures without further delay.

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Muhammad Asif recaptures national snooker crown after six years


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Muhammad Asif, a former world champion, recaptured the crown after six years as he edged out Muhammad Bilal in an epic final of the Jubilee Insurance 43rd National Snooker Championship 2018 at the Karachi Gymkhana on February 21.

As expected, the all-Punjab final between the two of the top cueists of the country progressed at a brisk pace with both the combatants displaying aggressive mindset to surge ahead.

It was anybody’s game, locked up at five-all, when third seed Bilal suffered a stroke of misfortune in the 11th frame and second seed Asif made the most of it by pressing home the advantage. 

Having won the national title in 2009 and 2012, Asif made the most of the lucky break in the best of 15-frame final to win it 8-5 with the scores of 83-10, 69-48, 76-19, 12-78, 28-93, 0-87, 57-77, 68-9, 79-34, 8-87, 75-51, 69-40, 66-37. The match was supervised by the eminent referee, Shabbir Hussain Daruwala.

Asif conceded that the rub of the green had gone his way in the final and he was extremely fortunate to get the opening in the 11th frame caused by an unexpected error from Bilal, who was also playing extremely well until that stage. 

The 35-year-old Asif, hailing from the industrial city of Faisalabad, felt relieved at winning the national title for the time in an illustrious career during which he also won the World Championship in 2012. 

“Bilal was a constant threat to me throughout the match and I had to play my top game to remain in business. It was a kind of encounter which was thoroughly enjoyed by the spectators as well as the large television audience watching it live,” he said. 

The 32-year-old Bilal, a proud product of Mandi Bahauddin, was aiming to the national title for the second time, having annexed it in 2016. He seemed on course of achieving his ambition but the mishap of 11th frame proved decisive and he was unable to pull it back.

Asif drew the first blood with the help of a break of 83 and then made it 3-0 by pocketing the next two frames as well. 

The breaks of 63, 60, 57 and 77 in successive frames allowed Bilal to go into 4-3 lead which was equalized by Asif with the help of a break of 61 in the eighth frame. 

The momentum was with Asif and he cashed in with another break of 79 in the ninth frame to go 5-4 up. Bilal, however, drew level by chalking up a break of 87 in the next frame. 

Bilal could not get back into game once he lost the 11th frame in which one of his shots proved fatal. Asif not only won that frame but also the next two to reclaim the trophy in style. 

Cash prizes of Rupees three lacs were disbursed in the presentation ceremony held soon after the final. Asif collected the glittering trophy with a purse of Rs 100,000 from chief guest Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, while Bilal received an award of Rs 50,000. 

The welcome speech was delivered by Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiard & Snooker Association (PBSA), while the activity report was presented by Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, Co-Chairman, PBSA. Other members of the PBSA Executive Committee present on the occasion included Zulfiqar Ramzi (Secretary), Arif Taherbhoy (Joint Secretary), Shariq Vohra, Nisar Bhagat and Rasheed Jumbo.

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February 14, 2018

Cueist Bahadur Ali penalized for violating anti-smoking laws


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Unseeded Bahadur Ali entered the record books as he became the first cueist to be penalized for violating the recently inducted anti-tobacco law imposed by the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA). 

“Bahadur Ali of Balochistan was found smoking during his match against Qadeer Abbas and he was penalized and game was awarded to his opponent as per law. The match at that stage was tied at one frame all and the final result was declared as 4-1 in favour of Qadeer Abbas,” Tournament Director, Naveed Kapadia, revealed at the Karachi Gymkhana on February 14. 

“The PBSA has imposed the restriction from the new year in accordance with the directives of the International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF) and the Asian Confederation of Billiards Sports (ACBS) which prohibits the cueists from smoking tobacco during the course of a match. All the participating cueists of the ongoing Jubilee Insurance 43rd National Snooker Championship 2018 were very much informed about it and this clause was included in the contract which they have signed with the PBSA,” he explained.

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Snooker’s strongman Arif Taherbhoy turns 68


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The long serving official of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), Arif Taherbhoy, was feted in a unique manner as his colleagues and friends arranged an unannounced birthday party of his on the sidelines of the Jubilee Insurance 43rd National Snooker Championship 2018 at the Karachi Gymkhana on February 14.

Taherbhoy, having turned 68, was lavishly praised by the top functionaries of the PBSA who had gathered in the afternoon to celebrate the occasion rather enthusiastically. 

The PBSA Joint Secretary cut the birthday cake in the company of Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, President PBSA, and Zulfiqar Ramzi, Honorary Secretary, PBSA, in the presence of other board members which included international referee Shabbir Hussain Daruwala. 

“Arif Bhai has served the PBSA with distinction since 1989. So it has been more than quarter of a century, 29 years to be precise. He deserves to be recognized time and again for his dedication and services,” the PBSA President noted. 

The unheralded Taherbhoy indeed has been one of the pillars of the Pakistan snooker for the past three decades and his role in the snooker development of Pakistan has been quite significant.

Upon joining the PBSA in 1989 at the behest of Ali Asghar Valika, who was on a mission to revive snooker in Pakistan, he was initially assigned the task of coordination with media but at later stage he was entrusted the responsibilities of managing the day to day affairs of the body’s secretariat which he has run for close to three decades.

 An active cueist himself since student life, Taherbhoy had played snooker, mostly at Bohra Gymkhana and Karachi Club during the days when the great Latif Amir Bakhsh was at the peak of his career whith his biggest accomplishment being making it to the final of the Wahedna Gold Cup Inter-Clubs Tournament in 1972.

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February 8, 2018

Engro teams up with Quetta Gladiators for PSL


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Engro Foods, one of the largest conglomerates of Pakistan, have become the official sponsors of Quetta Gladiators for the PSL-3 and the agreement in this regard was signed between the company’s President, Ghias Khan, and Nadeem Omar, the franchise owner, in a ceremony on February 8.

The tastefully decorated office of Quetta Gladiators, owned by Nadeem Omar’s Omar Associates (Pvt) Ltd, was buzzing with activity on a pleasant Karachi afternoon and the auditorium, the venue of the signing ceremony, was packed to capacity to witness the event. 

“We are starting this partnership with very high hopes of making it a big one as we share a lot of common goals. We need the support of corporations and sponsoring partners to grow and become self-sustaining entity. Together we can achieve our mutual objective of putting Pakistan on top of the tree in the cricket world,” Nadeem Omar observed. 

The Engro President, an ardent supporter of the game, described the Pakistan Super League (PSL) as a great initiative, having facilitated the return of international cricket to Pakistan. He was thrilling at teaming up with Quetta Gladiators, the only team to have reached both the PSL finals. 

There was more good news for Quetta Gladiators as unlike the last edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), their foreign cricketers have agreed to play their matches of the upcoming PSL-3 being staged in Karachi and Lahore.

“With the sole exception of Kevin Pietersen, all the foreign players of our squad have expressed their willingness to play in Pakistan this time round. Even the flamboyant England batsman (Pietersen) may come and play in our cities,” Nadeem Omar, owner of Quetta Gladiators, revealed in his speech on the occasion.

Besides Pietersen, the foreign cricketers in the Quetta Gladiators squad, being led by the Pakistan captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, are Shane Watson (Australia), Mahmudullah (Bangladesh), Jason Roy (England), Rilee Rossouw (South Africa), Carlos Brathwaite (West Indies) and Rashid Khan (Afghanistan). 

It may be recalled that Quetta Gladiators were deprived of the services of their prolific overseas cricketers, who opted not to travel to Lahore, as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chose to move the PSL-2 final away from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during the course of the tournament. 

Having finished runners-up in both the editions of the PSL, Quetta Gladiators appear determined to make it third time lucky as the PSL-3 gets underway with the usual fanfare later this month.

“We were considered underdogs on both occasions but we turned it around with passion and team spirit and proved many people wrong by cruising into the final. Sadly we couldn’t win the title in the past but I am quite confident that our team will perform better than before to bring him the trophy,” Head Coach Moin Khan, himself a former Pakistan captain, remarked.

“In cricket you cannot guarantee results but one thing is sure that we are going to fight until the end. That’s what we have been doing in the past and will keep doing it as we maintain very relaxed atmosphere in our dugout with the emphasis being on team spirit rather than anything else,” he added. 

Moin Khan reckoned that the PCB should appoint Sarfraz Ahmed as the captain of the national team until team until the 2019 World Cup which will be helpful in bringing to an end speculations and uncertainties. 

“Just as Quetta Gladiators have announced that Sarfraz Ahmed will continue leading our team as long as he’s fit, the PCB would be advised to go for a long-term appointment in the larger national interest,” the former Pakistan captain added.

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February 7, 2018

Snooker Nationals 2018 from Feb 12


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

As many as 52 cueists from all over the country will be taking part in the Jubilee Insurance 43rd National Snooker Championship 2018 which is scheduled to get underway at the Karachi Gymkhana early on February 12.

The details about the upcoming 10-day event, which will conclude February 21, were shared by Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), and Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee Insurance. Akbar Iqbal Puri, President, Karachi Gymkhana, was also present on the occasion.

“After having successfully organized both the national junior tournaments in Islamabad and the National Masters in Lahore we are all set to host the Nationals 2018 with the usual enthusiasm and intensity,” the PBSA President observed. 

“As far as the breakup of the 52 participants is concerned, the top 12 ranked cueists of the last year have been granted direct entry, eight cueists each have qualified from the provincial cups of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), six and three from the Balochistan Cup and the Islamabad Cup respectively alongwith four top junior cueists and three are wild card entries,” he revealed. 

The PBSA, in accordance with laid down procedures, has granted wild cards to Imran Shahzad, who recently defended his National Masters title successfully, Asif Toba and Muhammad Majid Ali, all of them from Punjab. 

The participating cueists have been divided in eight groups for the preliminary rounds at the end of which the top two cueists from each group will advance to the knockout phase starting with the pre-quarter-finals. 

The total prize money in the Nationals 2018 will be Rs 272,000 with the winner to collect Rs 100,000 and the runner-up to get Rs 50,000. The losing semifinalists will be receiving Rs 20,000 each while the losing quarter-finalists and the losing pre-quarter-finalists will be compensated with Rs 10,000 each and Rs 4,000 each respectively. The highest break award will earn a purse of Rs 10,000 while every century break will be rewarded with an additional award of Rs 2,000. 

Speaking on the occasion, Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, expressed his delight at the emergence of so many talented youngsters who have earned laurels for the country in the recent past. 

Akbar Puri, President, Karachi Gymkhana, a son of Mazhar Iqbal Puri, who had spearheaded the revival of snooker in Pakistan in the 1980s, vowed to continue supporting all sports as the club was proud of its sporting history. He assured cooperation to the PBSA in holding more snooker events in future.

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February 6, 2018

19th PVCA National Seniors Cup being contested by 103 teams


Pakistan News & Features Services

A total of 103 outfits from 50 cities, having been divided in 31 groups, will be participating in the 19th edition of the National Seniors Cup Cricket Tournament 2017-18 being organized by the Pakistan Veterans Cricket Association (PVCA) and sponsored by Omar Associates (Pvt) Ltd while Naya Nazimabad will be the co-sponsors.

The details about the event, whose Southern Zone matches will be getting underway on February 10, were shared by Fawad Ijaz Khan, Chairman, PVCA, in a media briefing at the Karachi Gymkhana on February 6. 

Nadeem Omar, Managing Director, Omar Associates, was also present on the occasion alongwith Akbar Iqbal Puri, President, Karachi Gymkhana, Abdul Haq, representing Naya Nazimabad, and the PVCA officials, Alamgir Ahmed, Amjad Islam Rishi, Shariq Hasib Khan and Mujahid Hamid. 

Fawad Ijaz Khan noted that the level of fitness of the cricketers, having crossed the age of 40, has improved considerably over the years primarily due to the introduction of the National Seniors Cup. 

Nadeem Omar reckoned that the senior cricketers were also making a significant contribution in the development of the sport, complimenting the PVCA to have withstood the challenges and delivered against the heaviest of odds. 

Akbar Puri informed that besides installing floodlights at the Karachi Gymkhana Cricket Ground, the club was looking forward to having more proactive role in cricket in near future. 

It was disclosed that 34 city teams from Punjab, 8 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 5 from Sindh, 2 from Islamabad one from Baluchistan will be taking part in the tournament whose national final, to be contested between the Champions of Northern and Southern Zones, will be taking place in Karachi on 22nd April. The total prize money in the event will be Rs 694,000. 

Karachi Gold Bridge will be taking on Karachi Lucky Knitts in the inaugural match of the Southern Zone  at Naya Nazimabad Cricket Ground on February 10. 

In the Southern Zone competition, Omar Associates, Fact Date Engineering, A A Pakwan, CAA and Quetta are placed in the Group A while the Group B comprises of RLCA, Gold Bridge, Airport Gymkhana, Haseen Habib and Lucky Knitts with Hyderabad, Badin, Jamshoro and Mirpurkhas being the drawn in the interior Sindh group. 

The group matches of the Southern Zone, taking place at Karachi and Hyderabad, will be of 20 overs each innings whereas the Zonal finals as well as the National Final will be of 30 overs per innings. The group matches will be organized on single league basis. 

The matches of the Northern Zone, having got underway last November, are being played at Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, Multan, Okara, Lahore, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Muridke, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Sialkot while the matches of the Southern Zone will be played at Karachi and Hyderabad.

Amjad Islam Rishi will be the Tournament Coordinator while the Southern Zone Committee will be headed by Alamgir Ahmed. 

The National Seniors Cup, contested annually between the selected teams of the various cities, has been organized by the PVCA every season since they its launch in 1998. 

The PVCA has attained not only national but international recognition. It has played three series of limited overs matches against Indian Veterans featuring mega stars on both sides. It also organized a series of matches against touring Canadian Veterans Cricket team in February 2017 and they are again touring Pakistan later this month to play a series of matches in Karachi and Lahore. 

Besides organizing Seniors/Veterans/Super Veterans Cricket, the PVCA is also promoting School Cricket as well having already organized eight successful editions of Inter-School Cricket Tournament in Karachi.

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February 2, 2018

Asghar Valika commends Mazhar Puri’s towering contribution to Pakistan snooker


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Glowing tribute was paid to Mazhar Iqbal Puri, one of the founders of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), for his monumental contribution in having revived cue sports in the country.

Ali Asghar Valika, who had succeeded Mazhar Puri as the helmsman of the PBSA in 1988 and went on the lead the body with distinction for the next couple of decades, recalled the attributes of his predecessor who had passed away after protracted illness 15 years ago.

Mazhar Puri and Asghar Valika had jointly laid down the foundation in the 1980s which has resulted in the development of snooker on such strong footings in Pakistan.

“Besides being an enthusiastic and prolific cueist himself, he was a visionary leader who was extremely passionate to promote cue sports in a big way in Pakistan. We shared the common passion and interest which prompted us to work together in order to accomplish the mutual goal of taking Pakistan snooker to another level,” Asghar Valika, now the Chairman of the PBSA, remarked in an interview at the Karachi Club on February 2.

“He had proposed me as the Vice President of the PBSA in 1986 when he was its President. His initiatives and drive inspired me greatly as we began the journey of reviving Pakistan snooker in the truest sense of the word. What happened next is history which we all know,” he recalled.

“Today Pakistan has become one of the major snooker nations of the world. Let’s place on record the huge contribution Mazhar Puri had made in sowing the seeds for the transformation. He had initiated the revival of snooker in the country and I had the satisfaction of carrying forward his mission,” the PBSA Chairman complimented. 

“He was the motivating force behind the formation of the PBSA in the early 1980s, which had replaced the Billiards Association of Pakistan (BAP) as the governing body of cue sports in the country. Today PBSA has become a household name. Its accomplishments are known to everyone. Its founders deserve to be recognized and admired,” Asghar Valika reckoned. 

“I am sure Mazhar Puri would have been proud to see where the Pakistan snooker stands today as the hard work as well as the sacrifices of its founders have yielded results. He hasn’t lived long enough but his dream of bringing home the world title was fulfilled in his lifetime,” the PBSA Chairman added. 

“Snooker was in his blood and his sons Imran Puri, who played in the professional circuit in England, and Akbar Puri, currently President of Karachi Gymkhana, have inherited the same passion,” Asghar Valika concluded.

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